Richard Petty on Danica Patrick: ‘I am not a sexist by any means,’ comments were good publicity for sport

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This kind of got lost in the shuffle of Saturday’s Sprint Unlimited, but it still bears repeating.

A week after Richard Petty said the only way Danica Patrick would win a Sprint Cup race was “if everybody else stayed home,” he reiterated Saturday before the Unlimited that he should not have been criticized for his comments.

And although he may be old school conservative, Petty even went so far as to insist that by no means is he sexist — which he was roundly accused of by fans and media — for making his comments about Patrick.

“What I said is what I said, and that’s what I believe, okay?” Petty told ESPN.com. “What’s unfair is the sexist part. If her name had been Danny, okay, nobody would have said anything about it. So y’all (media and fans) are bringing up the sexist part of it, not me.

“It was definitely not sexist, okay? Hey look, I’ve been married 55 years to the same woman. So I am not a sexist by any ways. I love women.”

It was at last week’s Canadian Motorsports Expo that The King, winner of 200 career Cup races and seven Cup championships, got tongues a-waggin’ with his observations on Patrick.

In addition to his comment about her chance to win a race, Petty added, “If she’d have been a male, nobody would ever know if she’d showed up at a racetrack. … This is a female deal that’s driving her. There’s nothing wrong with that, because that’s good PR for me. More fans come out, people are more interested in it. She has helped to draw attention to the sport, which helps everybody in the sport.”

And that’s kind of what Petty did with his most recent comments Saturday. No matter if positive or negative, his comments both last week and Saturday still generated public comment and brought NASCAR a boatload of publicity and attention from both media and fans.

“There was nothing going on (in) NASCAR racing,” Petty said of when he made his comments in Canada. “Nobody was talking about Daytona,” he said. “Nobody was talking about nothing. Look at all the publicity NASCAR got and she got just for one little comment.”

Patrick thus far has not responded — yet again.

It would appear The King wants — and likely will get — the final word in this whole incident.

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on NBCSN, NBC Sports App this week

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After five years and 98 Grands Prix broadcast since 2013, NBC Sports Group’s coverage of Formula 1 concludes with the 2017 season finale from Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina Circuit this week.

The lights come on for the day-into-night Grand Prix of the year as the sun sets on five years of broadcasts, original content and additional digital specific features such as Paddock Pass.

For Abu Dhabi this week, all of the race, qualifying and second free practice will be live on NBCSN with first and third free practice live on the NBC Sports App. The race returns is back in the usual morning a.m. time slots after three mid-day races in Austin, Mexico City and Sao Paulo, and a pair of overnight affairs in Kuala Lumpur and Suzuka. Formula 2 coverage of its season finale from Abu Dhabi also airs both on NBCSN and online.

With this the final race of the season before F1’s winter break, there’s still a handful of things to get sorted even though Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes have wrapped their respective championships.

Sebastian Vettel (Brazil) and Max Verstappen (Mexico) have won the last two races, with Hamilton’s most recent win coming at Circuit of the Americas. Will it be any of these three that wrap the year on a high or could any of their teammates – Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo or Valtteri Bottas – upend the script?

Mercedes has won the last three races in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton winning in 2014 and 2016 with Nico Rosberg taking the 2015 crown.

Vettel and Hamilton have three wins apiece in Abu Dhabi, Vettel having taken all of his with Red Bull in 2009, 2010 and 2013, and Hamilton adding a 2011 McLaren triumph to his last two with Mercedes. Raikkonen (2012, Lotus) and Rosberg are the other Abu Dhabi winners, and while both Vettel and Raikkonen have won in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari never has in the first eight races here.

The last place up for grabs in the constructor’s battle is for sixth, with Toro Rosso (53 points), Renault (49) and Haas (47) separated by only six total points. Toro Rosso and Renault got into a nasty war of words in Brazil, and will part ways after the weekend.

Felipe Massa signs off his career in F1 for the second and expected final time at Williams, and with Toro Rosso having confirmed Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley last week, his seat is one of only three left to fill for 2018, and the most attractive.

McLaren and Honda also bring to an end their partnership after three troubled seasons, but on the bright side will look to score points for a third straight race together, which hasn’t happened since the Hungarian, German and Belgian Grands Prix of 2016.

As ever, and perhaps for the final time as a collective unit, Leigh Diffey, David Hobbs and Steve Matchett will be on the call with Will Buxton reporting from the pits and paddock.

Here’s the F1 schedule, with stream links and TV network if applicable:

  • Practice 1: Friday, Nov. 24, 4 a.m.-5:30 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Practice 2: Friday, Nov. 24, 8 a.m.-9:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Practice 3: Saturday, Nov. 25, 5 a.m.-6 a.m. ET (Streaming)
  • Qualifying: Saturday, Nov. 25, 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Pre-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 a.m.-8 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 8 a.m.-10 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Post-Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 10 a.m.-10:55 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race: Sunday, Nov. 26, 6 a.m.-7 a.m. ET (NBCSN)
  • F2 Race (Replay): Sunday, Nov. 26, 9 p.m.-10 p.m. ET (NBCSN)